Reflections on a Wandering Life.....

Friday, April 22, 2005

Faculty outing today. We went to the peach orchards northeast of Beijing, after which we went for a lake cruise.

On the way to the lake, we had a rather lively discussion in the back of the bus. Two issues seem to be very much in the minds of many Chinese people. One, of course, is Taiwan. Always Taiwan. The other is the frosty relationship with Japan. I made the comment that I give China high marks for economic reform, but low marks for diplomacy. I had to explain what I meant by diplomacy, which generated some disagreement. Michael made the comment very directly that people in China do not have access to a variety of viewpoints because their news is controlled. Michael has spent a lot of time in Asia--most of it in Japan. The Chinese professors seemed to express confidence in the news sources they had access to. So I said, "How many of you knew that China sent a submarine into Japanese waters?" They were quite surprised by this news.

Basically, as I see it, China's failure in diplomacy is shown by the fact that China's actions tend to move world opinion in precisely the opposite direction from that which would be in the best interests of China. In the case of Taiwan, China had all but secured the acquiescence of the EU in lifting the arms embargo. The ruling party in Taiwan had been kept from controlling the legislative body, which was widely viewed as conciliatory toward Beijing. China's response was to pass the anti-secession law, which had the effect of strengthening the independence movement on Taiwan, and creating great resistance to lifting the arms embargo in Europe.

In the case of Japan, China's sent a submarine into Japanese waters, which was promptly chased back to China by the Japanese. When China was asked about this, the official response was that Koizumi should not visit the shrine where war criminals were buried. This response seemed rather bizarre, and left most of the world scratching their heads. Now students are throwing rocks and damaging the property of good citizens, and the official response of the city of Shanghai is that this is all Japan's fault. Over and over again, China manages to effect precisely the opposite response from what would seem to be in her best interests. This is not good diplomacy.

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